Facebook insists it will play nice with the metaverse

US Internet giant Facebook has attempted to combine the promotion of its own AR/VR strategy with a reassurance that it won’t abuse its consequent power.

Building on his stellar performance last week, Facebook flack-in-chief Nick Clegg teamed up with the head of Facebook Reality Labs (move along, nothing creepy to see here) to write a blog titled ‘Building the Metaverse Responsibly’. The piece defines the metaverse as ‘a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.’

In practice it seems to be an attempt by Facebook to get a head start on the still nascent virtual reality market, having invested heavily in its Oculus VR subsidiary. Presumably Facebook reckons the natural evolution of social media is a much more immersive environment in which we do nearly everything digitally. The fact that this would confer even more money and power on those who run it has, of course, never occurred to them.

“We’ll work with experts in government, industry and academia to think through issues and opportunities in the metaverse,” explains the blog. “For instance, its success depends on building robust interoperability across services, so different companies’ experiences can work together. We also need to involve the human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering.”

Note how the metaverse is positioned as an inevitability and that Facebook seems to be seeking praise for conceding its willingness to play nice with it, as though it could just as easily proceed unilaterally if it weren’t such a kind, considerate company. The fact that Facebook, apparently unprompted, felt the need to announce its good intentions speaks volumes by itself.

There’s also the inevitable incubator fund for XR (extended reality, a term coined by fellow US tech giant Qualcomm) bright ideas. Some of the $50 million Facebook is dedicating to it will go to non-profits that claim to be expert on the matter of ethics, but as we’ve seen in the case of censorship and supposedly independent fact-checkers, there’s no independence from a a financial umbilicus.

As you can see from the tweets below, this latest attempt to reassure the world of its benign intentions has fared little better than previous ones. Facebook has picked a time of intense concern about the power of big tech to suggest everyone plugs themselves into a matrix it controls. It can hardly be surprised that not everyone is in love with the idea.

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